Living the Dream: Sarah Vasega

Sarah Vasega
Director of Retail Operations
Aloha Green Apothecary
Honolulu, HI

The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated archipelago in the world, situated more than 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. Although Hawaii is part of the United States, it is, in some ways, completely its own world. We are in Honolulu, the state capital, located on the island of Oahu. Oahu is home to three of the state’s eight cannabis licensees and almost 90% of the state’s population. Here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you will find a budding, vertically structured cannabis Industry that overflows with opportunities, hurdles and lessons to learn.

Aloha Green Apothecary was the first medical cannabis dispensary to open on Oahu. From the beginning, we aimed to be industry leaders in the Aloha State. We worked through kinks from the grow to the sales floor, began to optimize operations and fought to retain as many customers as we could before other licensees could open for business. By the time Oahu’s second and third dispensaries opened for sales, we had already become an example for operating under Hawaii’s unique set of regulatory and cultural variables. Our team had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes and hurdles that others did not yet know they would face. Issues with our seed-to-sale program, local banking limitations and the trials of greenhouse growing in the tropics were all part of our development. We tested the market, we tested the regulators and we tested our team to the benefit of anyone who was paying attention.

As a company, we can now feel the speed and direction change as we continue to drive the local market. In such isolation there is much focus on the competition and when we make a move, there is almost always a reaction and certainly some level of scrutiny. Our customers are confined by geographic location and have few choices of where to shop for lab-tested cannabis products. Thus, reputation is everything.

Our success is a complex equation, but I believe much of it has come from metaphorically tending to our own garden rather than looking toward our neighbor’s. The work is never done, and we are sure the challenges won’t stop. In times of difficulty we look back to our mission and persist.

We cannot help but envision a bright future as we continue our work to offer a better customer experience, a larger selection of products and increased profited.

Cheers to the leaders, creatives and trailblazers who evolve in an exciting industry made richer by constant change. We are honored to be able to lead the way in our own remote paradise.

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